When I was starting out, I used to stick to one book and take notes religiously from that book, but as time went on, I've started referring more and more books for one topic, and just jumping between four to five references on the same topic. In this case, it seems difficult for me to take notes, as the effort taken in finding references and switching between them, makes it more difficult to go into the exact details of one book and take specific notes.

For those who are most experienced, how do you manage taking notes when there is a number of references? And, is it better to increase the number of references for understanding a subject deeply, or to go through a fixed number of texts deeply?

There is also a feeling of pointlessness I have, as I don't think I would be able to top the exposition of some of the texts I read myself.

  • 1
    What is your purpose in taking notes? With very few exceptions, I find all the notes I have taken completely useless, and I can't imagine a way of taking notes that actually would have been useful. Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 18:50
  • I am arriving at a similar sentiment. I am taking notes for better comprehension I guess @AlexanderWoo
    – Babu
    Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


This seems like a good scenario for using the Hipster PDA that I described elsewhere here.

The idea is to take notes by hand on index cards, writing on only one side initially. The cards are numbered. They can contain citations. You can use different colored cards for different uses. Keep it to one big idea per card.

They can be carried, sorted, discarded, etc.

After a study session, you can summarize a set of cards on yet other cards.

They are also useful for note taking in class, with one big idea per card and then used for summary after the class. I also used them for class prep and delivery, selecting from older cards from my card box and some new cards.

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